Venezuelans have been dealing with rationing and shortages in a handful of different industries ever since the country’s currency began weakening under the leadership of President Nicolas Maduro — food, paper products, cars, electricity, and jobs are all hard to find in Venezuela these days.
But the world is seeing the country hit a new low in terms of its healthcare system — which the Venezuelan government once boasted about after Chavez made major reforms in the late 1990s to ensure that all citizens were covered — and now, the government is asking pharmacies to fingerprint customers who are purchasing medical supplies and prescription drugs.
The government has pointed fingers at others in an attempt to avoid the blame, according to the Washington Post, including a large number of doctors who have left the country in the past few years (thus leaving many Venezuelans with few places to receive medical treatment), as well as hospital staff for not organizing supplies and ordering enough medicine to serve their patients.
The Venezuelan government has also stated that “medicine hoarding” has become a trend among citizens, which exacerbated the problem.
Recently, President Maduro announced plans to install fingerprint scanners in about 20,000 pharmacies across the country, with the intention of preventing people from stocking up on too much medication and selling it on the black market.
The decision to start fingerprinting customers has already received a great deal of criticism from healthcare workers and politicians across the world who state that it’s likely to make Venezuelans even more reliant on black market goods.
In a country like the U.S., sales of prescription drugs on the black market make up about 10% of all pharmaceutical medication sales. For the most part, American consumers only turn to these illegal marketplaces to purchase drugs that are still considered experimental, or to purchase drugs for health conditions that they don’t have.
In Venezuela, people turn to the black market for medications because they have no other choices.